Fall Camp Report – Defensive Line
The Nose Tackles
Brandon Ivory – 6’4, 315 Junior: Mr Ivory played a strong but unheralded role as a backup nose tackle last season. However, he did it well enough to be recognized by Todd McShay during one of his film study sessions – pretty impressive. Spring practice saw Ivory continue to gain strength and confidence and many are of the opinion that the nose position will be just fine this season.
Darren Lake – 6’3, 315 Sophomore: Lake reportedly has all world potential. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite seen that potential become reality just yet. This season, Lake will get a real chance to shine as he’ll be rotating with Ivory at the nose position and, like Ivory, I suspect he’ll spend some quality time in crucial short yardage situations. Everyone loves this big kid so it will be interesting to see if he breaks thru this season.
Newcomers: Two quick notes on this position. First, it normally might be alarming that there are only 2 nose tackles listed in this list but this season (and perhaps subsequent seasons) it may not be that big of a deal. More and more, Saban and Smart are having to use 4 man fronts to combat spread offenses so true nose tackle isn’t as prevalent in their defenses these days. However, the Tide did sign a big 6’5, 302 lb 5 star defensive tackle in A’Shawn Robinson and the depth chart, or lack thereof, indicates he’d better be ready to play.
The Defensive “Ends”
Ed Stinson – 6’4, 282 Senior: As we mentioned in our pre-spring look at the defensive line, you may be surprised to know that Stinson was second only to Adrian Hubbard in tackles for loss. You may also be surprised to find out that NFL.com lists Stinson as the #50 player in their top 50 college player list. Stinson quietly goes about his business and is largely unsung by Bama fans. This season, Stinson will be counted on for leadership and his continued solid play and spring gave no indication Tide fans will be disappointed this year.
Jeoffrey Pagan – 6’4, 285 Junior: Pagan, by all accounts, is ready to have his breakout season. He did flash a few times during A-Day but he certainly didn’t dominate like many reports seem to indicate he can. It is pretty clear that Pagan will start opposite of Stinson and then it will be up to him to show the staff that he can provide consistent effort. The sky is the limit for the ultra-talented Pagan and much is expected of him this year.
Xzavier Dickson – 6’3, 262 Junior: We talked a good bit about Dickson in the LB preview so I won’t spend a ton of time on him here. Dickson’s athleticism and size could see him follow in the footsteps of Ed Stinson, moving from LB to DE during his career. The nice thing is that with Dickson on the field, Bama can show a 4-3 or a 3-4 at any time so his presence at DE gives Kirby Smart another couple of tools in the tool box.
LaMichael Fanning – 6’7, 275 Sophomore: I’m going to go out on a limb here but the flashes that I’ve seen from Fanning have been more impressive than what I’ve seen from Pagan. Now they are both impressive but I like Fanning’s upside a bit more. Of course, at some point Fanning will need to prove to the staff that he can be trusted out there but, honestly, I’m dying to see him suplex another unsuspecting running back. Aren’t you? Fanning will be in the rotation and, depending on Pagan’s play, he could get a couple of chances to crack the starting lineup. Either way, Fanning will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth this season.
Wilson Love – 6’3, 286 Sophomore: I would love to tell you that I’ve heard a ton about Love but that just hasn’t been the case. I didn’t see him do anything noteworthy during A-Day, either.
Dakota Ball – 6’2, 270 Sophomore: See Love, Wilson. There just isn’t a lot of info out there about Ball and I didn’t really spot him during A-Day.
Korren Kirven – 6’5, 281 Redshirt Freshman: I actually thought Kirven flashed some potential a couple of times during the spring game and I think we may have something here. He looked very strong at the point of attack and even penetrated into the backfield a couple of times. I’m interested to see if he moves up the depth chart this fall because he looks as though he could.
Dalvin Tomlinson – 6’2, 287 Redshirt Freshman: Tomlinson is the apple of the Lighthouse’s eye on the defensive line. A former Georgia heavyweight wrestling champ, Tomlinson has a quick, strong burst and the strength and knowledge to use his leverage to his advantage. I saw a lot of #54 during A-Day and the word on the street is that he was so good last year they almost had to take the redshirt off of him. I’m really, really, really excited to see him play and I think he’ll get a lot of time as a tackle in the Bama four man fronts.
Newcomers: Darius Paige (6’4, 314) impressed me a ton in two different All Star games and I think he’ll be close to game ready when he steps onto campus. Paige has a tremendous motor and while he may not play a ton this season I also do not think he’s going to redshirt, either. Dee Liner is a much heralded recruit on the DL as well, giving Bama three studly DL in this class. Liner appeared to sleep walk during the all-star games I saw and at 6’3, 280 he’s not as big as Paige or Robinson. I’m interested to see if Liner cranks it up during fall camp competition or if the staff finds it difficult to get his maximum effort. Of course, after flashing this picture I would imagine he’s going to start camp buried beneath the dog house – coming out only to run stadium steps.
What we said in Spring: Similar to the LB position, Bama is stacked at the DL as well. With this amount of depth, it’s no wonder Saban wants to find a way to substitute defensive players onto the field against the hurry up offenses! The Tide’s spring practices seemed to solidify Pagan as the other starting DE across from Ed Stinson but it’s clear that the second group of ends (Dickson, Tomlinson & Fanning) are going to get plenty of time as well. Fall camp will be interesting as we see if Pagan maintains his grip on one starting spot while we’ll intently watch the younger pups jockey for position on the #2 line.
Fall Camp Previews